Why Fewer University Students Are Studying Mandarin – Slashdot

Ten years ago there was a growing interest in Mandarin, as China’s influence and economic heft increased. Now Mandarin-learning is declining in many Western countries. In America, enrolment in university Mandarin courses fell by 21% between 2016 and 2020. An anonymous reader writes, citing an Economist story: That may be because job markets have changed. Translation tools like ChatGPT mean low-level Mandarin skills are not needed anymore. Bilingual Chinese graduates fill most roles that require a higher proficiency. But Western students may also be put off by China’s government, which has become more oppressive in the past decade, making living in or working with China seem less appealing.

This shows that China’s soft power is weak. But it is also a problem for Western governments, many of which say they need more Mandarin speakers. The CIA, for example, wants to double the number of Mandarin-speakers it employs. As China and its rivals struggle to get along, there is an ever greater need for mutual understanding. Being able to talk to each other might help.


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